Amsterdam may be more associated with Amstel, Heineken and, well, other types of highs, but the city's lesser-known, regionally produced craft beer should not be missed. While one of its microbreweries has been around for two decades now, others have opened in just the past two years – and there's no shortage of impressive beer bars that showcase small-scale Dutch brewers. "There are approximately 150 breweries in the Netherlands, of which there are 140 craft brewers," says Nico Lammers, public-relations coordinator for PINT (Promotie Informatie Traditioneel Bier), a nonprofit Dutch beer association. "The number of breweries has grown rapidly in the last few years and is still growing."
Despite their rising numbers, artisanal Dutch brewers, who tend to gravitate toward flavor-forward Belgian-style beers, hold only about 5% of the total market share – meaning you can still find plenty of Heineken in Amsterdam (the behemoth brewing company no longer makes beer there, however; the space has been given over to the popular theme-park-like Heineken Experience). But to sample beers from Dutch breweries so small and off-the-radar that you'll have trouble finding them back home – and to move well beyond the standard pilsners that have dominated Dutch brewing for much of the 20th century – look no further than these Amsterdam breweries, bars, and beer stores. As they say in Holland before you drink (its pronunciation even rhymes with "toast"), proost!
Laura Siciliano-Rosen is the co-founder of food-travel website Eat Your World, a guide to regional foods and drinks in destinations (including Amsterdam) around the globe.
Brouwerij de 7 Deugden
New to the city in 2011 is Brouwerij de 7 Deugden, located just west of Vondelpark and named after Catholicism's seven virtues – as such, the labels carry various proverbs on them, and there are exactly seven house beers, plus seasonals. (And similar to Brouwerij de Prael, there's a social function at play here, with many mentally and physically disadvantaged people on staff.) No background in theology is needed, of course, to sample the highlights on tap, which include Arm + Zalig (5% ABV), a caramelly amber ale with smoked malt and juniper berries, and Scheepsrecht (7% ABV), a Belgian-style tripel with notes of clove. Visit the brewery for a few drinks or make an afternoon of it: Fifty- and 75-minute tours with tastings are on offer, as well as beer and cheese pairings ($32 per person; 3 hours, includes tour).
Credit: Herman Wouters